Eagerly awaited by legions of its fans around the world, the new Gen VII-based 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI makes its debut in Geneva. Complementing cooler looks and hotter performance with significantly improved fuel economy, the new GTI elevates its own formidable benchmark on every level.

For the first time in its history, GTI buyers will be available to choose from two levels of potency -- at least in the European market. Standard trim will see the GTI's 2.0-liter turbocharged/direct-injected TFSI 4-cylinder engine make 220 horsepower -- up from 200 in the current GTI -- and churn out 258 lb-ft of torque, which reflects a 51 lb-ft increase in the peak twist department. Buyers seeking a bit more muscle will be able to add a new Performance Pack that bumps the pony count to 230 without impacting the GTI's gas-mileage. In either case, the engine is fitted with an efficiency enhancing Start-Stop system that helps improve overall fuel economy by a stellar 18 percent compared to the previous Gen VI GTI. Transmission choices include a conventional 6-speed manual or VW's 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. The GTI will sprint from 0-62 mph in 6.5 seconds with the former gearbox and 6.4 ticks with the latter while topping out at 153 mph and 155 mph, respectively.

          Also check out the new 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTD

Not surprisingly, VW's new hot hatch shares a good deal of exterior cosmetic elements with its turbodiesel-powered alter ego: the equally new VW Golf GTD that also steps into the limelight in Geneva. Beyond a choice of Tornado Red, Pure White or Black paint, the GTI features distinctive side skirts, a rear roof spoiler and a functional rear diffuser set off by red painted brake calipers, dual chrome exhaust tips, smoked LED taillight lenses and LED license-plate illumination.

As always, the GTI boasts a tauter and lower-riding sport suspension, here paired with a bespoke set of 17-inch "Brooklyn" light alloy wheels wrapped in 245/45 tires along with enthusiast-oriented progressive-effort power steering. Opting for the Performance Pack further ups the ante thanks to the addition of a torque-sensing limited-slip front differential as well as larger front/rear vented-disc brakes.

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Like the GTD, the new VW GTI features cloth covered sport bucket seats complete with "Clark" tartan inserts, a black headliner, sport steering wheel, unique trim accents, GTI-specific instrument cluster and shift grip, and a stainless-steel pedal set. Other standard include red ambient lighting, VW's latest touchscreen infotainment system, Climatronic auto climate control and park assist.

The 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI goes on sale in Germany this May with a starting price around $37,000. A U.S. version - officially the 2015 Volkswagen GTI as it will be known here - is slated to arrive in this country about a year later. No word yet on pricing for that car, which will be sourced from VW's plant in Puebla, Mexico. Equally unresolved is the status of the Performance Pack for this market.


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